- Green Technology
How to Save Money With an Electricity Usage Monitor
Energy Monitor as shown in this review
Cut Your Electricity Bill Without Cutting Your Home Comforts
How to cut your electricity bill and save money with the aid of an electricity usage monitor, without cutting your home comforts. I'm not a green person by nature so the only reason for reducing my energy usage is to save money, but I do so reluctantly and not at the expense of my home comforts if I can help it.
Therefore when I was given an electricity usage monitor, with claims on the package that it could help me reduce my electricity bill by 20% I was dubious but willing to give it a spin. The electricity usage monitor was a free gift my son had for attending a free one day course; he had a choice between a sat-nav and this monitor. His first choice was the sat-nav but on looking at it he changed his mind because it was only a cheap model and not that great, so he took the electricity usage monitor for me instead. When I went to the official website to download the free computer software for the monitor I noted the monitor he was given sells for 60 euros so it was a true bargain.
Energy Saving Monitors and Devices
Monitor Power Usage in Your Home and Save Money
The concept is relatively new and apart from the Efergy monitor there doesn’t seem to be much choice for a good all round device that monitors total real time consumption for the whole home. Most devices seem to be for monitoring individual appliances only.
What is an Electricity Usage Monitor?
And how to set it up to monitor your electricity consumption
An electricity usage monitor is what it says on the package, it monitors your usage of electricity. You might say your electricity metre does that, and it does; however, what makes these monitors really useful is that they monitor your electricity consumption and displays it real time on a small screen right in your livening room so at a glance you are aware of your electricity consumption as it happens.
The monitor comes in two parts, one part which monitors the flow of current fits over the mains live supply to your electricity metre and this sends regular signals to the other part that displays the power being used and sits in your living room.
Setting the monitor up is simple and only takes a few minutes, the instructions below is a general guide only as the exact setup will differ between different Makes and Models of electricity usage monitors:-
- Fit batteries in both bits of kit; for some models the display monitor works from the mains rather than battery.
- Press a few sequence of buttons to set up the date and time and your current billing charge per kWh (kilowatt hour).
- Clip the monitoring part of the kit loosely over the live mains cable feeding your fuse box from your electricity metre.
- Press the synchronising button on both bits of the kit so they synchronise with each other e.g. you wouldn't want to be monitoring your neighbours power consumption by accident if they happened to have the same kit as you.
- Place the Display unit anywhere convenient so that you can easily see it and start monitoring how much power you and your family are using.
Setting up Your Energy Usage Monitor - Step by Step GuideClick thumbnail to view full-size
Where do You Get an Electricity Usage Monitor?
And what types are available
I'm not a very green person so it's not a subject I know much about but I do know that in the UK the Government, in an attempt to meet its international commitment to reducing the nations carbon footprint, have brokered deals with the power supply companies to offer deals either to supply cheap or free electricity usage monitors to their customers, and in exchange the power supply companies can raise their prices to recover their costs in the long run e.g. a backdoor form of green tax. Which with increasing energy prices gives added incentive to home owners to find ways to reduce their energy bill; one novel way is the right of home owners who produce surplus energy to sell their surplus back to their main energy supplier e.g. through generating surplus energy from wind generators in their back garden or solar panels on their roof.
As well as offers from your energy supplier you can also buy these units from the web and, as in our case, get one as a free gift e.g. they could make great birthday presents.
The model we have stores the data and has a USB port so you can periodically upload the stored data from the display monitor to your computer and with the aid of the free software available from the unit's suppliers official website you can analyse the data to your heart's content comparing usage and trends over months and years.
The unit a friend of ours got from his energy supplier doesn't have this facility so he can only see current trends from the display monitor itself. The other difference between the unit we have and the one our friend has is that ours displays the usage as an 'as at' as a how much it would cost over 24 hours whereas our friend's display monitor shows the figure for one hour usage e.g. how much it would cost per hour if the current usage of electricity were to remain constant.
No doubt there will be other slight variations in other models so if you wish to do more than see an 'as at' usage you may wish to look around for the electricity usage monitor that best meets your requirements. On the other hand, if you're not fussy then look around for the best deal offer for getting one, either with your energy supplier or from the web.
If you buy a unit from the web it's not going to pay for itself instantly but the chances are is that it will have paid for itself within the first year; and then any savings you make from then on goes into your own pocket.
Like the energy usage monitor in this review article the transmitter is installed inside your electric box and sends an updated reading of your electricity usage every six seconds to the easy to read display monitor.
How Can an Energy Usage Monitor Save You Money?
And how it can pay for itself within the first year
I'm not the sort of person who's going to become obsessive about using the electricity usage monitor to the detriment of my own home comforts so I was rather dubious about the claims on the box that it could help to save me 20% on my electrify bill.
However, from the moment we switched it on it became clear that yes it could, and probably would, save us 20% on our electricity bill; simply by the facts that-
- It make you more aware of current electricity usage and costs, 'as at' and trends, which helps you to take action (immediately or later) to cut down on energy usage without reducing your living comforts.
- It also helps you to quickly identity the electricity costs for individual items around the home so you can make better 'informed' decisions on how to reduce their usage without compromising your home comforts, and
- Potentially, the electricity usage monitor can also alert you when something in the house has been accidentally left on so that you can take immediate action to turn it off. I say potentially because it depends how visible and noticeable the display is from where you are sitting in the living room. In our case the display monitor has a back support stand that angles it up towards the light, just at the right angle so the light from the electric lights in the ceiling bounce off the monitor display back into the room at eye level e.g. so it illuminate the figures on the display and everyone sitting in the living room can easily see the display. We also have the unit siting on a small table by the TV so it can easily be glanced at periodically when watching telly. In contrast the unit our friend obtained from their energy supplier doesn't have the back stand support so it just stands straight upright and doesn't reflect the light from the ceiling lights, therefore the figures are not illuminated and you can only see the display if you stand up and take a close look at it.
Making Sense of the Data From Your Energy Usage Monitor
And how understanding the data can save you money
The unit works by transmitting updated live power consumption from the monitor near your electricity metre to the display monitor every few seconds, in our case it's every six seconds; and for our friend's monitor I think it's every eight seconds.
When you set the unit up you can choose the default display e.g. kWh, cost, carbon footprint etc., and at any point briefly switch to any of the other views by simply pressing a large button on the top of the display monitor.
The default display we and our friend has chosen is the one that shows constantly updated 'as at' costs. Our monitor displays the current 'as at' cost extended over 24 hours and our friends monitor shows the amount extended over one hour.
Cost per hour (as our friend's monitor displays it) is useful in that if you turn a light on the display might go up 1p or if you put the kettle on 10p e.g. how much extra it would cost per hour if the light stayed on for the hour or the kettle continued to boil none stop for an hour; although the kettle is on for only a couple of minutes so unless you're constantly boiling the kettle throughout the day it's not going to add much to the electricity bill.
However, our monitor displays the data for a 24 hour period which gives more striking figures which are more likely to shock people into being more conscious about leaving that unwanted light on in the hall. For example, turning a light on may make the display jump 25p and turning the kettle on will make it jump 10 momentary until the kettle is boiled.
So understanding these figures can make you more conscious in turning the lights out when you leave a room, and only putting as much water as is needed in the kettle so that it doesn't boil for so long; and even remembering not to leave the telly on if you leave the room for any length of time; none of which reduces your home comforts but all of which saves pennies, and as they say (an old British saying) 'if you look after the pennies the pounds will look after themselves', which I guess in American would translate to 'look after the cents and the dollars will look after themselves'
A penny an hour for leaving a light on may not sound much but if that light were to be left on for 24 hours it becomes 24p a day which over a month would be 7.20 and over a year 87.60. And that's just for one light bulb, if you're in the habit of leaving lights and other equipment on all over the house needlessly then the cost could so easily far exceed 20% of what it could be if you just turn things off when not required.
I haven't gone as far as turning everything completely off when not in use, these days most equipment in standby mode doesn't use a great deal of electricity so the savings for turning them off completely would be minimal; but I do know people who do take things this far primarily to save even more on their electricity bill rather than worrying about their carbon footprint.
Real Time Monitoring of Your Electricity Usage - And Making Sense of the ReadingsClick thumbnail to view full-size
What is the Half Life of Bulbs?
Energy Consumption of Light Bulbs and all about their Half Life
Because we tend to buy things in bulk when they are on offer and because the half-life of a bulb is a guide only and no guarantee for the full life of a light bulb we still had a good stock of tungsten bulbs (about a dozen) when the government banned the sale of tungsten light bulbs in the UK a couple of years ago. The ban on the sale of tungsten light bulbs being part of the government's strategy in an attempt to meet the nation's carbon footprint reduction as part of internationally agreed targets.
You don't see the term so prominently marked on the packaging these days but the figure is usually quoted on the box somewhere, but knowing the half-life of a bulb can be one useful factor in deciding whether purchasing a particular brand of light bulb is good value for money or not.
The half-life of a light bulb is a reference to its aggregated use not age e.g. a typical tungsten light bulb will reach the half-life at 1000 hours of aggregated use. The half-life doesn't tell you how long a particular bulb will last, it only tells you that at the half-life of a light bulb e.g. 1000 hours of aggregated use half the bulbs of that type and brand will have burnt out and half the bulbs will still be shining bright. Therefore there's a 50/50 chance that an individual bulb will still be working at its half-life with a chance that the bulb may blow after only 5 minutes use or may last 2000 hours or even 5000 hours or more.
We use different wattage bulbs in different rooms and in different lighting situations, such as bright lights in the living room, kitchen, dining room etc. so people can see what they are doing e.g. reading, writing, eating, cooking etc. and dimmer lights in the hall and upstairs landing, and so on. And in rooms with bright lights we'll also have wall lights or lamps for more subdued lighting when required.
The spare stock of tungsten lights we had when the government banned their sale was 60w and 100w, and in their place energy saving lights at the fifth of the wattage for the apparent same brightness became available, but at ten times the price; although their half-life was typically 8000 hours instead of the old 1000 hours. We had to buy a few at the time to replace Edison type (Screw in) light fittings but most of our light fittings are still of the bayonet type and we haven't needed to replace any of these until recently.
My main gripe with the energy saving light bulbs (apart from the cost) was that they were not as bright as claimed. The 100w equivalent at 20w wasn't too bad, it was close to what it should have been but the 60w equivalent took ages to brighten up and once it had never shone brightly. However that is history because we recently used our last spare tungsten light and had to go out and stock up on new light bulbs only to find the energy saving light bulbs have since been withdrawn from sale and replaced by eco halogen lights, which in my opinion are much better, and optionally LED lights.
Although LED lights are very low on power consumption and very bright to use the LED lights we would have to waste money on buying adaptors for all our light fittings; so instead we've stocked up on the eco Halogen lights. The new eco halogen lights are still expensive but not as expensive as the energy saving lights; and their half-life is 2000 hours, double the half-life of the old tungsten lights.
Being Halogen the eco Halogen lights are very bright. Initially we bought a 70w eco halogen light which is marked as being the equivalent to a 92w tungsten light, just shy of the 100w we use to use; but we found that to be too bright. So we tried a 46w eco halogen light, marked as being equivalent to 60w tungsten light and we found that to be just right; so it just shows how bright they are.
Although the eco halogen lights use a lot more energy than the energy saving lights they replaced they still use half the energy of the old tungsten lights so as we gradually replace all our old tungsten lights throughout the house with these eco halogen bulbs we should start seeing some cost benefit on our electricity bill.
Different Types of Light Bulbs
And there power consumption
The old Tungsten light bulbs which now banned from sale in the UK, they have the highest power consumption and lowest half-life e.g. 1000 hours; but were the cheapest to buy.
The energy saving light bulbs which replaced the old tungsten lights in the UK, they have the lowest power consumption and highest half-life e.g. 8000 hours; but were the most expensive to buy and have now been withdrawn from sale in the UK.
The eco halogen light bulbs which replaced the energy saving lights in the UK, they use more energy than the energy saving lights they replaced but less than the old tungsten lights. Their half-life is typically 2000 hours. They are cheaper to buy than the energy saving lights they replaced in the UK, and give a brighter light.
Other Energy Saving Ideas
Maintaining Ambient Room Temperature
I like to feel comfortable so I'll have a tendency to turn the heating up if it feels cool, although a handy little device which I had as a freebie has proved useful in helping me to make an informed decision on when to turn the heating up and when to turn it down again so that I don't turn the heating up unnecessarily.
The device, pictured above, was a freebie when I agreed to a 'cold call' phone call for wine tasting in the home of very expensive wine with no obligation to buy. An offer I couldn't refuse, a chance to drink lots of free samples of very expensive and very exclusive wine and a freebie to-boot. I love wine but I prefer the taste of cheap plonk and besides I make my own wine anyway so have no need to buy any; not that I could afford expensive wine anyway.
Needless to say the sales person when he arrived was as good as his word, even though I made it clear from the start that I couldn't afford such expensive vintage he did his job and gave me plenty of samples to taste and we had a good friendly chat at the same time, including me giving him my tea wine recipe (as he also makes his homemade wine); and after a good hour or so he gave me my freebie and left.
The freebie is no more than a glorified electronic barometer, although rather than picking up the outside weather it reads the indoor humidity and temperature and therefore always determines that it's going to be fine sunny weather even if it's cold, wet and windy outside.
Nevertheless the temperature and temperature trends are accurate and if its feeling a bit nippy glancing at it gives a good indication on whether I should go and turn the heating up , as I would have done in the past, or let it ride seeing that it's just outside the ambient range temporally and not taking a nose dive. Therefore the freebie has saved money on heating, and together with the electrify usage monitor both devices are saving me pounds (dollars) on my energy bills.